The picture on the left shows a park in Dublin that I love. That patch of outlined white snow in the middle is a lake that has frozen over. Further up, there were some people playing on the ice, but you can't see them in this picture. Cold weather this dramatic (and pretty) is very rare in Ireland. We're usually rainy and temperate - especially Dublin, which is right on the coast. Our last snow was in February 2009, and I can't remember before that. It may have been 2001.
I've been driving everyone I know crazy for the last few days. I can't stop telling people that when we're old, this cold snap is one of the things we'll remember. I even joined a Facebook group called 'When I'm Old, I'll Talk About The Great Winter of 2009/2010' or something to that effect. Self-parody is the best kind :)
For other reasons this week, I was already thinking about memories. And when I imagine the kind of life I want to look back on, I tend to think of big things. I want to see Japan. I want to see the Pacific Ocean. I want to climb a mountain.
And sometimes, to make myself feel better about all the things I haven't done yet, I list the things that I have done. I've had a giggling fit on a high speed train from Brussels to Cologne. I've seen Westminster Abbey, and the first time I saw that was one of those Big Moments, even though it doesn't sound that impressive. I've walked along the Thames at night as the lights came on. I was in Prague twenty years to the day after Communism fell. I was in New York three months after 9/11 (the only time I've ever been to America, as it happens), and I had tea in the Algonquin Hotel under a painting of the Round Table Group. I have sprinted around the British Museum (and I mean sprinted) five minutes before they closed, trying to photograph the Mildenhall Treasure, the Rosetta Stone and the Parthenon Sculptures. I'll remember all those things when I'm old, too.
But they are big things, in a way. They all involved purchasing plane tickets for a start, so they're experiences that are restricted to people who can afford plane tickets.
The snow this week has reminded me that there are other memorable things. Life isn't just about those things that sound impressive in a blog post. It's about going walking in the first snow you've seen in years. It's about the night you went to your first writers' group meeting when there was a total weather warning in effect. Or going hillwalking the Saturday before you started a new job, or the last coffee you had in your local cafe before it closed down, or the first film you saw in your favourite cinema. Knowing what the Grand Canal looks like frozen over, and how in summer, when the light is soft enough, it seems to roll like a bayou and I like to sit by it and read books set in the Deep South. These are the little moments. No plane tickets. No world events.
We should all take time to appreciate the things that make up our lives, every day. But I know I don't. It takes two weeks of snow to make me stop and look around, and start storing up memories.
That wouldn't be a bad writing exercise, actually. Take a few minutes and list the big moments in your life, the marriages and births and deaths and first kisses and amazing holidays. Then list the small ones. I'll remember that, next time I'm stuck.